One of the main reasons I believe apologetics is necessary for the church is due to the church not addressing the exodus of our young people in the church. I don’t want to sound accusatory right out of the gate, but I am not sure the church thinks there is a problem. As I shared with you in on a regular basis, there is a rampant anti-intellectualism in the church across America, and we are seeing the manifestation of that anti-intellectualism through a high casualty count that I will address in a moment with our kids going off to college.
Whether the church knows, and does not care or that the church knows and does not know how to address the problem is not the focus of this post. That is not for me to make that judgment. But as far back as to the time when we were living in Upstate NY, I was hearing the horror stories from the local Christian high school; about how the class Valedictorian and Salutatorian go off to the big college for the beginning of the next phase of their lives. However both of them, by the time Thanksgiving break comes along, or Christmas break, the heart breaking phone call or face to face happened.
You may have heard it yourselves. The heartbreaking announcement by a nervous student comes a little like this: “Mom, Dad I no longer believe in God and I have become an atheist or an agnostic.”
Every Fall semester, parents will be sending their students off to college or back to college. Our colleges and universities today are suppose to be a neutral site to learn “objective” facts about the real world. But they are the furthest thing from being objective.
Unfortunately, parents will be more likely dropping their son or daughter into one of the most liberal, anti-Christian environments anywhere on American soil. The moment you drive away, your new collegiate student will be away from any moral accountability from their parents. What happens our kids in that kind of environment?
I don’t know whether you really realize this or not, but your new college Christian student, when confronted with intellectual challenges to Christianity, many Christian college students will abandon their faith; about 75-88%.
In fact, statistics are telling us that 88%: The Southern Baptist Convention’s Family Life Council study in 2002 (unfortunately, I can’t find the actual study and methodology); 70%: LifeWay Research study in 2007 (LifeWay also found only 35% eventually return); 66%: Assembly of God study (again, I can’t find the actual study, only references here and there).
Folks, whether you want to agree with these figures or not, it is a forgone conclusion that secular thought dominates most educational institutions. I don’t want to leave you with these figures and tell you there is a problem without giving you a solution or two. That would not be acceptable.
However it is known fact that Christian students are often ridiculed and openly humiliated by fellow students, and faculty, for believing in God, believing the Bible, and believing in Jesus Christ. So what I would like to share with you, when it comes time for college, Christian students (more specifically) often find themselves in one the following three outcomes in our marketplace of ideas (whether it it is the college or university lecture hall or the high school classroom or the workforce). Two of these outcomes are not good, while the last one needs to happen prior to their first semester year.
I. Their faith quiets. In this outcome they still profess to be Christians, but they keep that their faith and convictions private so as to avoid any confrontation. The cause of their faith quietening is due to them insulating themselves from any encounter that might push them out of a sheltered comfort zone. Already of the home base comfort zone this temporary condition is safe for the community college student who often commutes to school, goes to class, and then goes home or to work. Unless they are run into another Christian student, which is a lot of the cases, this insulation is good for the two years but will not last once they get out into the marketplace of the work force or head off to a four year school. This can become discouraging unless your student finds an oasis of encouragement in a peer or club/Bible study at school.
For the four year school student, the time wear and tear of insulating oneself from the secular city of the university wears thin very quickly. The world of the dorm life wears down any attempt to insulate oneself. Peer pressure from dorm roommate, who may not be a believer, is the peer pressure that wears out the “insulation” very quickly. When this happens, the next outcome is where the demise is manifested, the wearing out of whatever faith your kids have left.
II. Their faith quits. In this outcome is where the departure begins. This is where your kids have the highest potential to walk away from the faith. This is because the “insulation” has been worn down producing a sense of loneliness that gnawed at them until they cave. All the moral accountability alternatives are not there. It is the peer pressure and persecution from the professors versus whatever faith you gave them or discipled them. That is all they have in their arsenal, the flames of the secular versus a water pistol of faith.
Young and impressionable college students and high school student are being programmed by secular ideologies to believe that truth becomes “relative,” morals and moral choices are relative or a matter of personal “preference,” that genders are neutral and gay is okay no matter what your homophobic parents say. That is where this attack comes from.
All of these ideologies are pontificated from the professorial lecterns across the country. The assault coming from some of those professors who are atheists, humanists, Darwinian evolutionists, Marxists etc. There are professors all over the country carrying these banners coming against your and your student’s Christian faith. They occupy institutions ranging from a small community college like NOVA or Germanna to the local universities like VA Tech, UVA, all they way here to University of Mary Washington, and institutions like these all over the country. We hear the stories like these from local students.
How bad is it? Let me provide you with a couple of examples. . .
Some professors have made no effort to hide this. Professor Richard Rorty, who taught at Wellesley, Princeton, the University of Virginia and Stanford, admitted that he and many of his colleagues are actively trying to destroy the faith of our Christian kids in college.
He warned parents to recognize that as professors,
“we are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable.”He said that we professors “arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own.”
Rorty followed that wake-up call to parents with an overt poke in the eye. He claimed that students are fortunate to find themselves under the control “of people like me, and to have escaped the grip of their frightening, vicious, dangerous parents.”
Did you hear that parents? According to Professor Rorty and his like-minded colleagues, you and your Christian views are dangerous. That’s why they are intent on mocking your religious beliefs to the point that your children are too embarrassed to admit them or even hang on to them. They want your children to abandon your “homophobic” beliefs and adopt their way of thinking. That way, your kids will turn out more like them than like you.
Professor Steven Weinberg, of MIT, Harvard, and now the University of Texas, harbors the same anti-religious agenda expressed by Rorty. An atheist and physicist, Weinberg said, “I personally feel that the teaching of modern science is corrosive of religious belief, and I’m all for that.” If scientists can destroy the influence of religion on young people, “then I think it may be the most important contribution that we can make.”
You might be thinking, “I thought imparting truth was the most important contribution a professor could make.” Not for Weinberg—it’s his anti-religious agenda. In fact, his anti-religious agenda is so overriding that it distorts his interpretation of the evidence. The discoveries of modern science don’t point away from God, but directly to Him. Unfortunately, few college students know this, which allows Weinberg to spin the evidence the other way. In doing so, he accomplishes what he believes is the most important contribution of a college professor– destroying the parent’s religion in the eyes of their children.
Please note that NOT ALL professors are like this, but there is a high percentage of those who are of the likes of a Rorty, Weinberg, Erhman or another. But folks this is where some college professors act as intellectual predators, purposefully seeking to undermine the faith of young Christian students.
These two professors are not atypical. A recent survey shows that professors are five times more likely to be atheists than the general public. It also found that 53% of college professors view Evangelical students unfavorably. In fact, Evangelicals are, by far, the most disliked religious group on campus (Muslims were not liked by 22% which means that in the United States of America, professors are two and half times more likely to dislike an Evangelical student than a Muslim student).
Have We Lost? Is There Not a Solution?
If you discovered about half of the students in your church’s youth ministry were going to walk away from Christ after entering college, would you do something about it? I hope so. That’s not a very good retention rate.
But what is the percentage of Christian youth are actually leaving the church?
There’s been some debate about the actual number, with some saying as little as 4% will remain Christian, while others suggest there’s virtually no exodus. Christian Smith tells us that evangelicals have been “behaving badly with statistics” and quickly dispenses with the 4% “panic-attack” stats. But can we get some idea of the percentage of youth leaving the church without being irresponsible with numbers?
If you were to combine the assault from the professors with the peer pressure coming from fellow students; and then add your students’ battle with the sinful nature, with them conforming to the world of the marketplace of ideas, you have a formula or a recipe for disaster. There is only one other outcome that you and I can begin RIGHT NOW to help your students obtain.
III. Their faith quickens. In this outcome we need to provide avenues and opportunities to inoculate themselves. You and I, alongside your students need to recognize the challenges of college and the secular city and cultivate their faith roots so as to help it grow deeper and stronger.
Now I have to be careful when I use this term inoculate, so as not to give the wrong impression. When I use this word, inoculate, I don’t want to give this impression of someone giving a shot to protect from diseases, or the vision of soldiers going through the “cattle line” to get their shots before a foreign deployment. This is not what I am saying.
A. The first thing that needs to happen is that Christian High Schools need to evaluate how they are teaching their apologetics courses and bring in a trained apologist to assist. We believe the way apologetics is taught in the Christian needs to be changed so that the student can assimilate the training they receive into everyday living. Too many kids today cannot answer fundamental questions on why their faith is true. Some remember that they were taught a response in the first semester but it never “stuck” and assimilated into the rest of the year.
C. We need to start training our church youth and college groups like they are in basic training, giving them tools that will enable them to stand firm in the culture today whether it is in the classroom or the workplace. There are plenty of great resources and our ministry is willing to assist you church and Sunday school classes to help you get the ball rolling.
Nota Bene: Please feel free to contact The Real issue Apologetics Ministry for more information on how we can serve you and/or your church. Also if you have a student getting ready to go off to college in the next month or so, and you would like to know more about Ratio Christi, I would love to share with you about this great movement ministry and what the Lord is doing with our students over the last three years at Germanna Community College. Click here to listen to the podcast on this topic
Rob is a blogger, writer and public speaker on a mission to equip the believer to think and articulate what they believe and to communicate the message of the gospel to a confused culture in a confused, chaotic, “brave new world.” He is available to come and speak to your church, college club, or group. Find out what people are saying.
If you would like to book Rob for a speaking event, you can do so by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org If you have other questions about apologetics or doing apologetics, or if you are looking for apologetics resources, contact our ministry by email.